Art Toronto 2019 featured more Inuit art than ever before in the fair’s 20 year history. But did it sell? The IAQ caught up with gallerists, artists and collectors for their take on this year’s fair and the presence of Indigenous art.
“I was really, really pleased with the enthusiasm and the focus on Indigenous art. Even though it wasn’t necessarily on purpose, it did seem that it was everywhere,” notes LaTiesha Fazakas, Director and Curator of Fazakas Gallery, whose booth at Art Toronto included sculptural works by Inuit artists Maureen Gruben and Couzyn van Heuvelen as well as paintings by Jason Baerg and an embroidered piece by Audie Murray. The works by Gruben were from her large-scale installation work, Stitching My Landscape (2017), commissioned by Partners In Art as part of LandMarks2017/Repéres2017 project, and van Heuvelen’s works were originally shown in his solo exhibition, BAIT (2019).
Alongside Fazakas Gallery, a diverse selection of works by Inuit artists were included in the booths of Feheley Fine Arts, Jarvis Hall Gallery, Marion Scott Gallery and the Inuit Art Foundation. A panel discussion examining the rise of artistic practice in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) also closed out the fair on Sunday, October 27 at 4PM. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“The fair was very successful,” says Elyse Jacobson of Toronto’s Feheley Fine Arts. “There were a lot of new people with an interest in Inuit art which I think stems from a raised consciousness. Generally speaking, I think the representation Indigenous art was very strong.”
Feheley Fine Arts returned this year for their 20th consecutive fair. Included in the booth were works by rising stars Johnny Pootoogook, Quvianaqtuk Pudlat and Ooloosie Saila as well as Samaiyu Akesuk, Adam Alorout, Qavavau Manumie, Michael Massie, Bill Nasogaluak and Padloo Samauyualie. Pootoogook’s raven pieces as well as several of Saila’s colourful landscapes sold within the first few hours of the Art Toronto VIP Preview on Thursday, October 24. Particularly prominent this year were works by Shuvinai Ashoona, whose drawings were shown at Feheley Fine Arts as well as Patel Gallery (Toronto), Galerie Hughes Charbonneau (Montreal), Pierre Francoise Oueltte (Montreal) and Marion Scott Gallery (Vancouver).
Jeffrey Boone, Gallery Associate of the Marion Scott Gallery, echoes Jacobson’s reaction. “The reception was amazing,” says Boone. “We curated a booth and every single object in that booth sold.” Included were works by graphic artists Shuvinai Ashoona and Elisapee Ishulutaq, textile artist Janet Nungnik, sculptor Jamasee Pitseolak, and interdisciplinary artist Mark Igloliorte and filmmaker Lindsay McIntyre.
Inuit Art Quarterly cover artist McIntyre’s film series Bloodline (2007 and 2012) sold to the Art Gallery of Guelph in Ontario. Igloliorte’s film Eskimo Roll (2017) was acquired by TD Bank Group, their second acquisition of work by Igloliorte, following an earlier painting Islands (2013) which was acquired in 2016.
“At TD we see our collection as an apparatus that sparks conversation, amplifies voices and shares stories,” explains Stuart Keeler, Senior Art Curator for the TD Art Collection. “We’re interested in new media as a platform not only to represent our time but also to enable some of these important conversations to happen. There are large digital screens within the bank so as there is a painting on the wall, there is also a move to incorporate digital media throughout the corporate spaces as well.”
Shannon Norberg, Director of Jarvis Hall Gallery, notes that works by Kablusiak included in their booth were particularly well received and photographs and textile works by the artist were sold to private collectors. “We did very well, we’re thrilled with how it all went,” Norberg states.
Darcie Bernhardt, the featured artist at the IAF’s booth, sold her painting Daydreaming about Ice-Fishing (2018) during Art Toronto, to RBC, which marked Bernhardt’s first institutional sale.
“I got to meet a lot of people and received a lot of recognition for my work. I felt like it was a very positive moment for me and my work and I think the sale of Daydreaming about Ice-Fishing confirmed it as well,” Bernhardt says.
“We really want to make sure that pieces we acquire are fostering new ways of looking at things, new conversations, and new perspectives,” says Corrie Jackson, the Senior Curator of RBC’s Curatorial Department. “I think there’s something about [Daydreaming About Ice-Fishing] that really resonates. When you look at the work, it feels quite abstracted, patterned, and compositional – but when you read the title you understand it in a new way. The works are about changing perspectives in such a tangible form – and I think that’s why the piece is particularly exciting for RBC.”
“It was so exciting to be able to see Darcie’s work at the fair and to better understand her process and the perspectives that she brings forward,” Jackson adds. “The Inuit Art Foundation did a great job explaining the work and the different elements of her practice – from the very representational to the abstract patterning. Understanding the reference material of the two compositions that were shown was important to better understanding the process involved in creating the works. I think there is something really unique to the way that Darcie is utilizing patterning, surface, and abstraction – and though that, ideas of memory. This unique perspective is what sparked the acquisition for RBC.”
Art Toronto proves that Inuit artists who produce singular and original work, in any media, can find an enthusiastic audience amongst collectors across Canada. For the past 20 years Art Toronto has helped launch the careers of many artists and will continue to do so moving forward.
“I think that Art Toronto is a great opportunity for artists, dealers and collectors. It’s really the only place where you can see such a wide breadth of really dynamic, interesting and important art being made in Canada,” Fazaka notes.
Boone, on the phone from Vancouver, offers a concise summary of Art Toronto 2019:
“Toronto loves contemporary Inuit art and we love Toronto.”